The grueling postseason tournament brings together 68 teams that fight for a chance to play in the National Championship game.
At the end of the day, only one team walks away with the ultimate prize.
Saying that the National Championship is highly anticipated would be putting it lightly. The National Championship is universally loved, even by people who don’t follow basketball.
The tournament has a certain unique appeal that rivals the hype that some pro leagues generate. Arguably, it’s one of the best postseason tournaments around.
For bettors, the NCAA tournament provides another great opportunity to place some bets. Every bettor wants to spot the next Cinderella team, avoid an underperforming heavyweight, and, of course, pick the eventual winner of the tournament.
If you’re looking for a guide that will help you place well-informed wagers for the 2022 tournament, then you’ve landed on the right page.
Here’s our NCAA Basketball Championship betting preview.
The road to the National Championship game is a long and hard journey for any team.
There are two ways that a Division I college basketball team can qualify for the NCAA tournament. The first is through winning its conference tournament and the second is by receiving an “at-large” bid from the selection committee.
68 teams take part in the NCAA tournament. 32 college teams get automatic entry into the tournament by winning their conference tournament, while the remaining 36 teams earn at-large bids based on key factors that the selection committee considers.
The 36 teams that are chosen by the committee discover their fate on Selection Sunday.
Once all the participants have been selected, 8 teams take part in the First Four—the four lowest-seeded automatic-qualifiers and the four lowest-seeded teams chosen by the selection committee.
The four winners from the First Four join the other sixty teams in the official first round. From there, each team takes part in a single-elimination round until two eventual finalists meet in the NCAA championship game. The winner of the championship game walks away with the NCAA title.
Just like regular-season college games, each game has two 20-minute halves. If a game ends in a tie, overtime will be used to determine the winner of the game.
Gonzaga Bulldogs – Last season’s beaten finalists will be looking for redemption in 2022. Gonzaga almost had the perfect season; they had a 31-0 record heading into the title game and were hoping to be the first unbeaten national champions in 45 years.
Unfortunately, they lost the final to Baylor, and that single loss tainted their nearly perfect season.
That loss will surely inspire them to go all the way this season. When the odds dropped, they opened as a +900 favorite. They’ve never won the national championship, but they’ve recently come close in recent seasons. They came in second place last season, just as they did in the 2016-17 season.
Mark Few, who’s been in charge of the program since 1999 and has taken a once unfancied Gonzaga to the next level, will hope to finally lead the Bulldogs to their first-ever championship.
Duke Blue Devils – Duke missed out on the NCAA Tournament last season. That was the first time that the program has failed to qualify for the tournament since 1995, so redemption will be their main aim this season.
Aside from that, head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who’s been in charge of the program since 1980 and has led the team to five national championships, will be retiring at the end of the season. Guiding Duke to one last championship will be the perfect send-off for Krzyzewski.
When the odds dropped, Duke’s average odds were +1750, but their odds have continued improving as the season has progressed.
Purdue Boilermakers – With the return of starting center Trevion Williams, Purdue is expected to be a major contender for the NCAA title this year. The Boilermakers had an 18-10 record last season and earned a No. 4 seed.
Surprisingly, they were knocked out by 13th-seeded North Texas in a first-round upset last season, but they’re expected to go deeper into the tournament in 2022.
When the bookies released their odds, Purdue’s average odds were +2150, but their odds have also improved significantly since the start of the season. At the time of writing, they are now considered one of the top five favorites for the NCAA title.
Surprisingly, the Boilermakers have never won the championship. They were the runners-up in 1969, and as recently as 2019, they finished in the Elite Eight.
UCLA Bruins – With 11 national championships, the Bruins are the record winners of the competition. Last season, they almost made it 12, but, unfortunately, they lost to Gonzaga in the Final Four after Jalen Suggs’ game-winning buzzer-beater.
The last time that UCLA won the championship was in 1995, and the last time that they competed in the title game was in 2006. They opened as the third favorites after Gonzaga and Michigan, so the bookies definitely think that the Bruins can match last season’s performances.
Kansas Jayhawks – This will be Bill Self’s 19th season coaching the Jayhawks. The Hall of Fame head coach guided Kansas to the title in 2008 and also led the team to second place in 2012.
Last season, they made it to the second round where they were eliminated by USC. They finished the regular season with a 20–8 record and were selected as a no. 3 seed.
Their average odds at the start of this season were +1800, but those odds have improved during the course of the season.
Baylor Bears – Surprisingly, last season’s champions aren’t heavily fancied by the bookies this season. This mostly has to do with the loss of key players such as point guards Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler.
MaCio Teague also went pro, and, surprisingly, Mark Vital transitioned to football after he left Baylor.
Of course, all these players were integral to the championship-winning team, so it will take a while before the Bears’ current crop reaches last season’s heights.
Barring a disaster, Baylor should still qualify for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. But whether they can go deep into the tournament and defend their crown remains to be seen.
Michigan State Spartans – When the odds for the 2021-22 season were released, the Spartans opened as the 2nd favorites. Their average odds on most sportsbooks were +1050, though the team’s odds have significantly risen since then.
Tom Izzo, who’s coaching his 26th season at the program, will hope to take the Spartans to the championship game for the first time since 2009. Their best finish in recent seasons was in 2019 when they made it to the Final Four.
Last season, they qualified for the NCAA tournament with a 15–13 regular-season record and were knocked out in the second round by LSU.
Villanova Wildcats – The Wildcats have dominated the tournament in recent seasons. They won the championship in 2016 and 2018 and reached the Sweet Sixteen last season where they lost to eventual champions Baylor. Collin Gillespie, Villanova’s star point guard, suffered a season-ending injury late last season, which all but crushed the team’s hopes of a fourth championship. He’s back this season and will be one of their key players.
The Wildcats are the team to beat in the Big East Conference. They arguably boast the best roster in their conference. If the program can avoid unlucky injuries, then who’s to say that they can’t win their fourth title this season?
Kentucky Wildcats – Only UCLA has won more NCAA championships than Kentucky. Kentucky also ranks first when it comes to all-time wins, making it the most successful NCAA Division I basketball program in history.
Despite such great, historic feats, recent success has been hard to come by for the Wildcats. Their last championship came in 2012, almost a decade ago. It’s also been a while since the Wildcats made it to the Final Four. Their last appearance came in 2015.
Last season was one of the program’s worst in recent memory. They finished with a 9–16 record and missed out on the 2021 NCAA Tournament. That marked John Calipari’s worst season since 1989.
The Wildcats can look forward to better fortunes this season. They have a bolstered roster with some five-star recruits such as TyTy Washington and Daimion Collins. With such players, Kentucky should be able to go deep into the 2022 NCAA tournament.
Virginia Tech Hokies – The Hokies had average odds of +2250 when the bookies released their odds, but that has since gone down to almost +6000 at the time of writing.
The furthest that the Hokies have ever reached is the Elite Eight, and that was back in 1967. Maybe they could be a Cinderella team this year?
Auburn Tigers – The Tigers also have the potential to be another Cinderella team. They reached the Final Four in 2019, which is their best-ever finish in any NCAA tournament. With Bruce Pearl still at the helm, can they replicate such feats three years later?
Handicapping isn’t as straightforward as many people tend to think when it comes to college basketball betting.
However, you can always improve the chances of winning your wager by gaining an edge on the bookies. Here are a few such ways that you can do so.
Online betting is booming. If you live in a state with legal online sports betting, we advise that you bet online instead of opting for a land-based sportsbook.
There are many advantages of doing so that will give you an edge over the bookies.
Firstly, you can use bonuses to your advantage. Sportsbooks know how big the championship game is, and that’s why they bombard bettors with promos during such events.
When you go for such promos, you can massively boost your potential winnings.
Secondly, you’ll have more markets to bet on. Retail sportsbooks aren’t able to include many markets, whereas the betting possibilities are endless with online sportsbooks. Plus, live betting is easier with online sportsbooks.
Since this is the final game in a long and hard season, bettors have a lot of things that they can cover.
For example, you can look at how well the players played during certain parts of the season and use that to gauge how likely they are to perform in the championship game.
Did a player choke in a crucial game? Has the team been fatigued by constant overtime? How often does the coach tweak his tactics in decisive games?
Remember, this is a final, so any information that you can gather—no matter how insignificant it may seem—will matter in the long run and will help you win your bet.
Certain coaches live for title games. That’s why researching a coach’s history, especially in a final where two of the best programs in the country are facing off against each other, will help give you an edge.
You can look at how the coach performs in finals, and how the coaching has been throughout the season.
As we said before, the possibilities are endless when it comes to betting on the big game. Aside from the three bets mentioned below, you can also place various prop bets and futures bets.
These are the three most popular bets that are favored by basketball bettors:
In this bet type, you’re simply betting on who is going to win a certain game. This is the most straightforward bet that any bettor can place because there aren’t any complications surrounding such a wager.
Here’s how the odds of a typical moneyline bet would look like on a sportsbook:
The Bulldogs are the favorites, and that’s why they have a (-) sign in front of their odds. So if you wanted to win $100 by betting on the Bulldogs, you’d simply have to wager $170 using the odds above.
On the other hand, the Wildcats are the underdogs; you can tell this through the (+) sign in front of their odds. If you were to place a $100 wager on them, you’d end up winning $150.
With point spreads, you’re simply backing a team to win by a specific margin or to avoid losing by a specific margin. In short, the team that you pick has to cover the spread.
Here’s an example of how a point spread would look like:
If you back the Bulldogs, they need to win by 7 points or more for you to win your wager. So if the scoreline is 77-70 in favor of the Bulldogs, you’ll win your bet.
If you back the Wildcats, their margin of defeat shouldn’t be greater than 6 points. So they can still lose 70-68 and you’ll still win your bet because they covered the spread.
Such bets are also known as over/under wagers. Here, you’re simply betting on the total score of the game and whether it will exceed or fall below the bookies’ line.
For example, if the over/under line is set at 120.5 and you side with the over, this means that the game needs to have 121+ points for a wager on the over to be graded as a winning bet.
On the other hand, for a wager on the under to be graded as a winning bet, the combined score of the teams should not exceed 120 points.
Aside from the above-mentioned handicapping methods, bettors also need to approach NCAA basketball games with a clear strategy. We’re going to discuss two strategies down below.
We aren’t underplaying the importance of stats. Statistics will always be important to bettors, and that’s why you should never ditch stats for other unproven methods.
All we’re saying is that you should dig deep into the stats because some stats are extremely deceptive. For example, if Team A has played weaker teams en route to the final, the stats are obviously going to skew in favor of Team A.
Other times, crucial insider information from a reliable source, especially in college games, may prove to be better than an overrated stat.
Odds and lines aren’t static. You should always be on your toes because the value can appear and disappear in minutes. Sometimes, betting early may prove to be the best option, especially if you want to back a favorite.
This is because most bettors bet on the favorite, and if there’s too much action on one side of the bet, that could diminish the favorite’s value.
If you want to back an underdog, you can wait for the lines to move to a favorable value.
Visit our guide for more college basketball strategies if you want to maximize your betting winnings.